The Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame has announced its 28th Hall of Fame class, an eight-member group that depicts the rich history of the Association, along with providing real-life examples of what participation, coaching and advocating for students can do. Each of these people has established themselves as a role model for today’s young people seeking their way to adulthood.
The CHSAA Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016 includes three of the state’s top former athletes in Jeff Campbell (Battle Mountain), Larry Farmer (Manual) and Mary Shea (Thornton), along with legendary coaches Debbie Cook (Meeker), Donnie Day (Thomas Jefferson) and Ron Vlasin (Merino/Littleton Public Schools). Rounding out the class are former Grand Junction wrestler, coach and advocate Ray Coca and former Pueblo Chieftain sports editor Judy Hildner.
“To have the opportunity to honor eight people the caliber of the Class of 2016 is exciting. We have the opportunity to demonstrate the end results of the many people who represent the values of educational athletics. This class, like those before it, shows the character, integrity and class that comes from participation in something bigger than one’s self. From three absolutely educationally-focused coaches, to a coach and advocate of wrestling in a career that spanned many decades, to three highly successful athletes and adults, to a media person who spent 30 years recognizing student participants from all sizes of schools throughout our state. This class reflects all that is right about high school sports and activities,” CHSAA Commissioner Paul Angelico said in making the announcement.
“The selection committee struggled and debated over the selections, knowing that there are so many good people deserving of this recognition. The one item of most importance to the committee is the impact that each of these inductees, like those that came before them, had in their respective areas of the state. The 28th class reflects the efforts, passion and love Colorado has for high school activities,” CHSAA Hall of Fame administrator Bert Borgmann said.
The committee, which is headed by CHSAA Hall of Famer Dick Katte, added two student representatives this year from the CHSAA Student Leadership team for the first time. Committee members aside from Katte include John Andrew (Denver Public Schools), Michele DeBerry (Boulder Valley Schools), Stacy Hall (Montezuma-Cortez), Eddie Hartnett (Boulder), Bob Marken (CHSCA), Shelli Miles (Widefield), Mike Miller (Cheyenne Wells), Dan Mohrmann (CHSAANow.com), Leslie Moore (CHSAA Hall of Fame) and Carol Sams (Grand Junction). The student members were Brianna Johnson (Rampart) and Evan Mahon (Visa Ridge).
The Class of 2016 will be inducted during a ceremony on Wednesday, January 25, 2017, at the Radisson Hotel-Denver Southeast (I‑225 and Parker). Individual tickets may be purchased for $50 each by contacting the CHSAA. The festivities get underway at 6:30 p.m. Seating is limited.
The selection of the one student participant to the CHSAA Hall of Fame puts the total number of participants in the hall at 63. There are now 66 coaches/sponsors, 28 administrators, 16 officials and 11 significant service contributors enshrined in the CHSAA Hall of Fame that began in 1989. There are also four teams in the hall. The Hall of Fame now features 188 inductees.
Biographies of the newest additions to the hall include:
Jeff Campbell (Battle Mountain) – One of the state’s finest athletes, Jeff Campbell could electrify those in attendance with his football kick returns or his track sprints. He was a two-time state champion in 1985 and 1986 in the 100 and 200 meters, along with being the Class 2A Co-Player of the Year in football in 1985. He went on to have a spectacular career at CU, then played in the NFL for nine years with the Lions and Broncos. He, too, was an amazing ice hockey player, being the last man cut from the 1986 US Team. Those who know him said he had his choice of professional sports in hockey, skiing and football. He chose football. The state’s 2A leading rusher in 1985, Campbell ran for 305 yards and scored five times against Meeker. He electrified the state when, as a CU Buff, struck for a 60-yard punt return against Nebraska, leading CU to its first win over the Cornhuskers in 26 years.
Ray Coca (Grand Junction) – A three-time state wrestling champion at Grand Junction High School, Coca posted a career 59-1-1 mark. Of his 12 state matches, he won seven by pin. His only loss came when he moved up in weight to take the place of an injured teammate. He went on to Western State where he again starred on the wrestling mat, going undefeated as a freshman and earning all-American honors in 1964 when his team won the national title. He officiated 10 district and one state championship tournaments. He remains active in the community as noted in his awards from the city as a Hometown Hero on at least two occasions. He was also the sports editor for the local newspaper for a number of years, promoting prep sports at a high level for the schools on the Western Slope.
Debbie Cook (Meeker) – Cook’s teams posted a 393-125 mark in volleyball during her 22 years at the helm, winning nine conference titles and going to the state tournament nine times. Noted for her work in health and wellness for the northwestern Colorado community, she taught elementary school PE for 30 years and helped with many community outreach health and education programs throughout her career. Her work in the community has earned over $100,000 for the community. She was named coach of the year three times from the Colorado Coaches of Girls’ Sports and the North West League Coach of the Year eight times. Cook also coached track for 16 years and girls’ basketball for two years. She continues to teach and volunteer in Glenwood Springs several days a week, but maintains her residence in Meeker.
Donnie Day (Thomas Jefferson) – One of the legendary coaches and administrators in Denver Public Schools, Donnie Day coached baseball, basketball and football at TJHS from 1960 until 1969, serving as head football coach from 1964-69. He was an administrator for TJHS from 1964-89 and in Douglas County Schools from 1990-2002. He also spent 4 years as a high school football official before working in the Western Athletic Conference for 14 years. He also officiated high school basketball. A graduate of Denver South, Day played football, basketball and baseball, earning all-state honors in football and baseball twice. His football teams posted a 56-5 mark, winning two city titles. He guided TJHS to its first ever city football championship and his teams never lost more than one game in a season. As an athlete Day was an all-state quarterback and baseball player at Denver South where he also played basketball.
Larry Farmer (Manual) – One of the state’s top basketball players from 1966-1969, Farmer helped the ‘Bolts to the state finals in 1967 where they lost to South in one of the state’s epic title games. Farmer went on to play for the legendary John Wooden and Farmer’s teams lost just one game in three years, winning three national titles. Farmer wanted to be a high school teacher and coach, but fate intervened. After a short stint playing overseas, Farmer was tabbed to join Gene Bartow’s staff at UCLA. Bartow had taken over for Wooden. And, when Bartow left, the job became Farmer’s. He has coached at the professional and collegiate levels ever since. He won 166 games as a head coach, serving at UCLA, Weber State and Loyola-Chicago. He has spent the last five years on the Western Michigan staff. Farmer, in spite of winning three national championships, almost quit basketball after his sophomore season at Manual. He persevered and the one game he remembers most of all the games he played (including collegiately) was the 1969 Manual-South state title game where his Thunderbolts lost. It’s a game, he says, that has stayed with him forever.
Judy Hildner (Pueblo) – The reigning matriarch of Colorado media, Judy Hildner is held in the highest esteem throughout the state. A founding member of the CHSAA Hall of Fame committee, she is a member of the Greater Pueblo Sports Hall of Fame and has been honored many times for her work with high schools. She remains one of the most knowledgeable media persons in the state and had oversight on one of the country’s finest newspapers with their coverage of southern and southeastern Colorado, along with the San Luis Valley. She is considered to be the state’s first-ever female sports editor, serving in that capacity from 1990-2012. She is a member of, and has chaired the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame Selection Committee, is a two-time member of the CHSAA Hall of Fame selection committee and has served, on the Pueblo School #60 District Strategic Planning Committee and others. Hildner graduated from Pueblo Catholic High School, earning Outstanding Senior honors, and then went on to CSU-Pueblo (then SCSC) where she worked at the Chieftain while completing her degree.
Mary Shea (Thornton) – A three-sport athlete at Thornton High School, Mary Shea played volleyball, basketball and tennis for the Trojans. Shea was such a gifted athlete that she started in all three sports and earned all-conference honors from the beginning. As a sophomore in tennis, she made the #2 singles position despite having never played competitive tennis before high school and made the state tournament. She was the #1 player the next two years but bowed out in regionals each time. In volleyball, she led her team to the final 8 in state as a junior and the final 4 as a senior. She was all-state as a senior. In basketball, she was all conference and all-state, leading Thornton to a final 4 appearance as junior and to the 1980 state title as a senior. She also coached the Thornton volleyball team in 1996 and 1997. After high school, Shea was one of the top basketball players in the High Country Athletic Conference/Western Athletic Conference for the University of Wyoming. She was the first female elected to the Wyoming Hall of Fame.
Ron Vlasin (Merino/Littleton/Arapahoe) – One of the state’s top basketball coaches, Ron Vlasin built some of Colorado’s top hoops programs for 30 years, including 5 teams that went unbeaten. He also coached football for two years (Merino) and baseball for six years (Arapahoe). His basketball teams were 546-165 over 30 years, while his AHS baseball program went 96-23 in his six seasons. His teams won nine state basketball titles, including five straight at Merino, and finished second four times. His MHS football team had two runners-up finishes. Vlasin’s teams held several lengthy winning streaks over the years, including streaks of 57, 46 and 40 at Merino. He was a nine-time Colorado Coach of the Year, including six times at Merino and twice at the AAAA level. He is a member of CHSCA Hall of Fame (2010) and the National High School Coaches Hall of Fame (2014). He held several offices in the CHSCA during his career. Many of his players went on to play in college, including Ken Shaw who set numerous Colorado prep scoring marks and now coaches at Regis Jesuit.
Additionally, the staff has selected the IBM Corporation to receive the Colorado Tradition Award. The staff has also selected Monica Abelein (Lakewood) and Greg Pierson (Greeley) to receive the Distinguished Service Award this year.
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